If you haven’t noticed, electronic music, specifically bass and dubstep have been transitioning into a chilled out, slowed down spiritual version of itself. Artists like Charles the First, of the Trees, and DMVU, among others, have been leading the pack and then there is Zeds Dead. Known for their rambunctious bass and electrifying house, the legendary Canadian duo also has a quiet introspective side. They first debuted their love for mellow vibey tunes in 2016 with the release of the namesake mix series. Designed to transport you into dreamland, Zeds Dead cultivated a mix of their favorite chill tracks from r&b, electronic, and hip-hop. In 2021 they announced their new experimental label Altered States, created to promote experimental abstract bass, chillstep, and trip-hop. Their first project released on the new label is none other than their own Catching Z’s mixtape which is a continuation of the namesake series. The only difference is that this time every track is an original song. Carefully selected from the abyss of Zeds Dead’s vault, Catching Z’s is a deep dive into the subconscious of the infamous duo that is Zeds Dead.
Released on March 26th, Catching Z’s was crafted specifically to ease you into sleep through ambient soundscapes and tripped-out basslines. One of the most versatile projects of the duo’s career, Zeds Dead finds another way to push the boundaries of EDM even further yet also stay true to their roots. “Trip-hop and downtempo music is a lot bigger of an influence in our music than most people know. We come from making hip-hop, so stuff like DJ Shadow, PeteRock’s Petestrumentals, and RJD2 was very important to us. We’ve always loved introspective, pensive music, and we wanted to show a side of us that we weren’t sure was coming through.”Zachary “Hooks” Rapp-Rovan told apple music.
Catching Z’s starts out with “when I die imma come back” as vocal chops akin to the heartbeat at the beginning of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon grab your attention as you drift gently into the void. As the hypnotic tones gracefully transition into “exit now” you feel your perception of reality melt away as calmness and well-being replace your anxieties and insecurities. Considering this album was meant for sleep a song with vocals may be the last thing you’d expect but Elliot Moss’s dreamy performance on “lost birds” is one of many highlights of the album. His tantalizing voice draws you in and further transports you deep into the dream realm. Tracks like “phuket sunrise,” and “get what you need,” are filled with blissful undertones, and fading in and out breakbeat drum patterns that captivate the mind and stimulate your senses. The synth work on ‘time is an elusion” is out of this world as the listener is overwhelmed with a deep sense of nostalgia. Then, Jenna Pemkowski who was featured on both “Collapse” and “Slow Down” off of Zeds Dead’s Northern Lights album makes another incredible appearance on “I think it’s cool.”
The second half of Catching Z’s pushes you further into dreamland as “desert fractal” acts as the soundtrack to an intense dream or spiritual awakening. The focus then transitions into the vibey emotional climax that is “late night drive.” As the album progresses tracks like “forever alone,” “don’t close your eyes,” and “over and over” provide a new journey for the listener as no two tracks sound the same but create a unique experience that perfectly fits into the concept of the album.
Catching Z’s then concludes with the 90s hip-hop-inspired “93 ‘till now” as Zeds Dead found influence in Soul’s of Mischief’s “93 ‘till Infinity.” By taking an original sound and adding elements of experimental electronic music, Zeds Dead creates another rush of nostalgia leaving listeners yearning for more.
Overall Catching Z’s is a brilliant project that is as revolutionary as it is mind-blowing. A journey of consciousness through the unconscious as Zeds Dead once again proves that their sound can not be boxed into one corner but exists on a multitude of planes without limits.